Pol­ish gov­ern­ment takes over Supreme Court

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

WARSAW: Poland’s rul­ing party has dis­missed grow­ing con­cern from key al­lies, in­clud­ing the EU and US and protests at home, by ap­prov­ing an over­haul of the Supreme Court that crit­ics say will un­der­mine ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence.

As mass demon­stra­tions con­tin­ued in cities across the coun­try, se­na­tors of the right-wing Law and Jus­tice (PiS) party agreed in the early hours of Satur­day to a bill that would re­move all Supreme Court judges ex­cept those hand-picked by the jus­tice min­is­ter.

The over­haul of the ju­di­ciary, cou­pled with a drive by PiS to ex­pand its pow­ers in other ar­eas, has pro­voked a cri­sis in re­la­tions with the EU and sparked one of the big­gest po­lit­i­cal con­flicts since Poland over­threw com­mu­nism in 1989.

Tens of thou­sands of protesters have gath­ered across Poland for can­dle-lit vig­ils daily since Wed­nes­day, de­mand­ing that Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda, a PiS ally, veto the bill. Peace­ful demon­stra­tions con­tin­ued on Satur­day even­ing in dozens of cities, in­clud­ing Warsaw, Krakow and Poz­nan.

Hun­dreds of protesters gath­ered at the Warsaw villa of PiS head Jaroslaw Kaczyn­ski, Poland’s de facto leader.

The op­po­si­tion and most le­gal ex­perts say the gov­ern­ment’s over­haul vi­o­lates the Pol­ish con­sti­tu­tion.

But the gov­ern­ment has stood firmly by its plan de­spite ac­cu­sa­tions that it is head­ing to­ward au­thor­i­tar­ian rule. The PiS says the changes are needed to en­sure courts serve all Poles, not just the “elites”.

The EU’s ex­ec­u­tive on Wed­nes­day gave Poland a week to shelve the ju­di­cial re­forms or risk sanc­tions.


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